“We are made up of a bunch of experiences. We must understand everyone’s side to come up with an answer. We must be held accountable and hold others accountable.”

These are the haunting lyrics from the opening song of the Lebanese TV series Al-Hayba.

But how do such experiences, in fact, determine how we interpret accountability? This can be an important issue in a country dealing with various challenges, highlighted in the popularity of a TV drama that offers some escapism and a melodic reminder that actions have consequences.

I was soon carried into the intricate world of Al-Hayba – a fictitious village nestled in an area that parallels the well-known Beqaa valley of Lebanon – settling down on the couch for an episode of soap opera entertainment, as is the custom of so many during Ramadan.

Earlier, as the call to prayer reverberated through the alleyways of Beirut’s Hamra neighbourhood, I had joined my Lebanese friend and her family for an evening Iftar to break our fast, where dates and milk marked the beginning of this shared tradition. It is now so often followed by time in front of the TV.

I had been sceptical when I began to watch, but I was soon drawn in.

In this series, the formal Lebanese state seems distant, and the role of arbiters of justice falls upon dignitaries, tribal sheikhs, and smugglers—figures painted not as self-serving warlords but rather as modern-day Robin Hoods.

The narrative unfolds against a backdrop where traditional hierarchies clash with contemporary ideals, blurring the lines between right and wrong, justice and retribution.

Many people dismiss TV soap operas as low-quality entertainment, but in this article, I examine their potential to shape the portrayal of important themes, including social justice and the way in which some controversial—and even illegal—practices can be normalised by popular dramas regularly watched by large audiences.

As I delve into these soap plotlines, I will discuss the shows’ value in reflecting societal norms, challenging conventional perceptions, and ultimately contributing to the broader public discourse on justice and morality.

To read this XCEPT article in full, please visit Majalla, where this piece was originally published.